A Lesson in Resigning

My twenty fifth birthday was one of the saddest so far. I didn’t feel like celebrating it, few people remembered about it, and at the end of it I couldn’t fall asleep: I was projecting the things I heard about being over twenty five onto my future. It made me cry. I was anticipating that I’d have the same problems I used to have, and that the only difference would be that I’d be less emotional about them. I was anticipating a resignation from my ambitious plan to gradually change the things that make me unhappy.

That’s what I heard people over twenty five become: emotionally cold, and resigned. Everyone gets those projections somewhere. They might be ridiculous and untrue, but they stay with us.

But, of, course they don’t have to define our future. We all have our needs, dreams, and plans that run against any bleak visions of the future that other people or the present feed into our minds. I, for example, need to listen to myself more. I dream about filling my life with interesting books. I have the ambitious plans I mentioned above.

And all of it didn’t go away when I turned twenty five. Quite the contrary: with each success and failure in fulfilling the above, I’m more and more aware of what these needs, dreams and plans mean to me… and in the end, it’s them that define me, not the projections.

Resignation is tempting, very tempting sometimes. It makes things so much easier to say: “this is too hard,” and give up. But I wouldn’t want to do so when I care about something deeply. And of course I care about my needs, dreams and plans deeply!

There is another kind of resignation, though, one I didn’t know until this year. It came unexpectedly naturally to me – a person used to fighting her own perceived weaknesses – after someone casually exposed my “people anxiety” by pointing out that I curled up when someone else sat beside me.

I always tried not to draw attention to my fear of people, wanted others to see me, ideally, as a confident person, and hated it when somebody made comments towards the contrary. I wanted to become confident, there and then, even if only in the eyes of some random beholders.

But at that moment, I resigned from pretending, and from my own hasty efforts to get rid of the anxiety (one of the things that make me unhappy, part of the big plan). I acknowledged the state I was in at the moment, and accepted the exposure, thinking: “yes, I am scared, why would I deny it?”

And, even though I’d never have expected any kind of resignation to be good, it was good for me. It had a calming effect. I’m not really sure how else to comment on this, or what to call this new kind of resignation, so I’ll just leave this discovery here for your consideration, and mine too. Maybe it will make us both more accepting towards ourselves…?

Post scriptum: Two days after I scheduled this post, during a yoga class, the teacher unexpectedly summed up my roundabout reflections on resignation by saying that all work starts from the place we’re in at the moment, and it can’t start from the place we would like to be in. It seems that everything around me conspires to teach me something.


When Passion is a Requirement

Have you ever had the impression that people would like you to be more passionate about things than you can realistically be?

For many of us, it may seem like this, and all the more so we consider the media an important point of contact with the world. Morning shows, ads, life-style blogs, ads again, job offers, and for the final time, ads – all of them promote the images of passionate, energetic people who go about their daily activities with a smile running all the way around their heads.

…Or throw books around themselves in a frenzy. Photo by Lacie Slezak

But it’s a silly approach where you show excitement as the only acceptable state to be in, tell your readers to boost their energy like it’s the only thing they can possibly need, or require a steadily exorbitant level of passion from job candidates.

It probably won’t be a surprise to you if I say that being in low spirits from time to time is only natural, that low-energy people can be happy in their lives just as well, and that a lack of passion doesn’t entail being no good at what you do in life.

The fact is that those periodically miserable, low-energy, unenthusiastic people can be just as good as friends, partners, parents, teachers, construction workers, artists, dentists and whatnot.

We are the way we are, and that’s okay.

Still… there’s always this shade of doubt when we think about ourselves, isn’t there? Whatever we do, it just doesn’t seem good enough when we compare it to the enterprises of the ideal, passionate people we’ve been trained to look up to.

Let me tell you a secret: I’ve struggled with my self-image as a writer for many years. Me writing + other people reading it + us together talking about me writing? No, that just doesn’t compute.

Why? Because I’m not passionate about writing, and how am I supposed to tell people that?

Let’s give it a try: I haven’t felt all my life that I should write. Holding a book with my name on it is not my biggest dream. I don’t wreck my sleep to write. My life is not defined by the stories I’ve written. Sometimes when I want something written, I force myself to write it because I have no enthusiasm for it. In fact, I suppose I’d be just fine without writing.

Photo by Green Chameleon

It’s just that I like to write, and some people like my writing. But when I think that, panic enters the stage because it sounds so terribly insufficient that I want to withdraw all the signals I’ve ever sent to the world outside that yes, I want to be a writer. Because if I’m not passionate about it, I’m not a real writer, no?

This doubt has its effects on the work itself. As with writing, so with other hobbies and endeavours. Every so often, one gets discouraged by adverse circumstances. Or one lose interest in what one does, and may even forget about it for long stretches of time. Very often, one’s lack of passion translates into a lack of motive to develop your skills.

If you add this self-doubt to the fact the world favours passionate people, it’s easy to call oneself a good-for-nothing, lie down and be sorry for oneself.

But don’t do this just yet! Because I’ve some important things to tell you. Here they are:

I. You are fine the way you are. You don’t have to be passionate about something to “count as a valuable person”.

II. You can be good at things even if you’re not helped along by passion. Without it, it may just be slightly more difficult in certain respects.

III. After you’ve admitted that you don’t feel passionate about things, it’s time for you – not for anyone else who may see your lack of passion as a shortcoming – to decide what to do with your time, skills, and energy.

But I can’t help you with that last one. Too busy writing.

What It’s Like to Have a Rat

I have a rat. It’s been sitting on my desktop for a few days now. Like all rats, it has the tendency to reappear in bad times.

It appears whenever I’m sad for a period of time longer than a few days.

I won’t show it to you because it’s a very private rat, just like my sadness is a private business, most of the time.

But I can talk about it if I want to. I wasn’t able to do this when I was younger. The rat had to stay somewhere out of sight, in the basement, I think (I was never quite sure of its whereabouts back then).

Under no circumstances did I want to see it, let alone let anyone else see it. Rats aren’t nice animals, you know.

But amid all this maturing, thinking and rethinking, I discovered that you can make friends with your rat even if it’s not nice.

Perhaps you’ll also be able to tame it so that it doesn’t eat you from the inside anymore. I haven’t yet convinced mine to stop doing that.

But I’m trying. When times are bad, I’m putting it on my desktop and say hello to it every time I switch on my laptop so that it feels accepted, and appreciated, too.

Nothing to be scared of — I tell myself, and it gives me that serious, reassuring look.

This isn’t the one from my desktop. This one was drawn by lotny.

Have a great day,

Post scriptum: You can read a Polish version of this post at uczesiemowic.blogspot.com.

Things I Can Do Without (and Those I Can’t)

“You must have it!” and other such arrogant phrases are not only the usual substance of commercials, but also one of the many misconceptions people hold, and harm themselves, and each other, with.

They come up early in life, and society does everything to keep them up for you. As a child, you find out you must have certain toys because otherwise you’re not cool. Then you’re told you must have a certain number of friends because otherwise you’re a loser. Then it transpires you must have an ideal body because otherwise you’re not attractive. Then adult life begins, and so many opportunities open up! so much there is to reach out for!…

…that you may be heading straight for full-swing depression if, in your heart, you feel obliged to really reach out for all of them.

I was thinking a lot about it, recently. Partly because I watched this guy discussing the problem of depression from a Buddhist point of view, but also partly because, from time to time, I hear people telling me, other people, or themselves that they must have: a driving licence, a degree, a flat of their own, a child (“before 30”), a partner (that would be… “before 29”, or what?), and I guess they also must have an awful load of guilt on their minds, too, as they move through life setting those goals and, every so often, not reaching them.

It’s guilt towards the ones who burden you with all these expectations — as if they had a right to! I know, I know, some people just revel in telling others what they should have, what they should do, and what they should want, and I won’t change it by saying they don’t have a right to do so. Still, I hope I can change the mindset of those who feel guilty about not fulfilling other people’s expectations.

Is it enough if I point out that these expectations are so often theirs, but not your own? Example: my family have been telling me to get a driving license. With them, it’s not even the “you must” kind of telling, but I felt obliged to get this damn license anyway. For some time, at least: then I came to the super-wise realisation that I never wanted to own a car, and I don’t think I want a job where I’d have to drive one. So much congestion, so much smog overhead, so many idiots on the roads, so why in hell should I become one of them?

And so I decided to remain a pedestrian idiot, but, in my own eyes, also a hero because I discarded one of the expectations that were not my own, and stopped worrying about not fulfilling it. And for me, the realisation that that particular need was not my own — that, in other words, a licence is a thing I can happily do without — was enough to stop feeling guilty towards my family; and it felt so freeing!

And for me, that’s enough: realising which needs and expectations are yours, and which are somebody else’s. Although it takes time – like any thing worthwhile, it takes a lot of it! – and may involve some risks, it’s worth it. At the beginning, you get rewarded with a kind of thrill, and later, you get time for yourself, by which I mean time for fulfilling your own needs and expectations.

And here I’m coming to the rather difficult issue of the other kind of guilt: guilt towards oneself. As you may have traced from my earlier posts, or even from the very fact that I write of it, I have problems with this one. Feelings of guilt towards oneself may be much harder to cope with than those connected with other people.

You may feel guilty towards yourself about not having something, or about not having acquired something up to some point in your life. These might be, again, things you can do without, and it’s great if, after some time, you realise it and find yourself free from guilt. But they might be things you really need. Simple things, like a sense of security, which some people don’t have and have difficulty “acquiring”.

The guilt which arises from not being able to get what you really need may be crushing, and my so-called wisdom fails to come up with any advice on how to cope with it. Myself, I lack time, good mood, and a job. I can’t stretch time, and they don’t sell good mood on every corner, but I know at least what to do about the last one: I must keep searching. Perhaps it applies to other kinds of lack, too. I don’t know. Anyhow, I feel guilty towards myself about not having enough of the former two.

And seriously, I don’t know what to do about it. I hate to finish this post like that, too. I had different expectations about it. But I guess my posts fuck expectations. Good for them…

If I ever learn anything about coping with guilt towards oneself, though, I’ll share it here. It’s a promise to myself, and it’s a promise to you, too.

All the best,


„All is wrong”. To all you desperate souls out there

Despair can make you think that all is wrong.

Despair is actually quite good at that. It can make you choke on your tears in the middle of a night and feel like you’re all alone in the whole damn world, and think you’d better put an end to all of this by swallowing some pills.

Now, I’m not going to try to convince you that “it’s never that bad”. ‘Cause actually yes, actually sometimes it is that bad. ‘Cause it feels that bad.

…Nor am I going to lie to you and say you’re never alone. ‘Cause sometimes you are. Let’s face it: at some point in your life you can find yourself completely, and totally, and undeniably alone for some reasons. This kind of shit also happens.

You probably know there are dark places in people’s lives.

They’re places you later want to forget, and you may also want to deny that it was you: down there, crouching on the floor in that darkest of places, all alone, hurt, and hopeless. You may want to tell yourself that that person wasn’t you.

But it doesn’t work, does it? I mean, “becoming somebody else”, “becoming a different person”, and losing this other person, leaving him/her behind, leaving him/her for ever in that fucking dark place you don’t ever want to be in again.

I wanted to lose the person I once was that way. A girl of fourteen: left alone, scared shitless, having no sense of belonging anywhere, and later only wanting to give it all up and die. I wanted to lose her, leave her somewhere on my way. I wanted it badly, but it didn’t work.

Some time lapsed, though, and I understood that I simply can’t ever leave her like that. If I left her, she wouldn’t let me forget about herself, anyway: she would wake me in the middle of the night with her crying, and ask for my attention.

Nor can I deny that that person was me, once. ‘Cause she was, and still is a part of me. I carry her around inside me like a dead foetus. It’s a slightly disturbing experience, but I’m getting used to it.

Also, it certainly isn’t as harmful as carrying a real dead foetus inside you, so I may actually recommend it. Yes, I think that’s the whole point of this post:

Accept the person, or persons, that you once were in your life: whoever they were, in whatever condition they were, whatever they did, or whatever was done to them. They were you at some point of your own life, and even though you don’t want to be them, and see the dark they saw ever again, they deserve this acceptance. You deserve this acceptance.

Don’t leave who you once were behind: carry your dead foetuses within you. Carrying them won’t make you be like them, nor will it stop you from changing, and growing — if that’s what you want in life.

‘Cause while “becoming somebody else” and leaving who you once were behind is, to my mind, a) a very bad idea and b) impossible, change is always possible.

So give yourself a chance at that. All of you, desperate souls. You deserve this chance, and you can change. You can always change. Even if it’s “all wrong” now.

All the best,

P. s. I came across a nice song writing this. Nice, isn’t it?